Tuesday, December 31, 2019


My new obsession: Heathcliff

Long ago, before the appearance of Garfield the cat, there was another cat in the comics: Heathcliff. Like Garfield, he is orange and round. Unlike Garfield, he exists in some kind of strange alternative universe rather than with a boring single guy, he wants to eat birds like a normal cat rather than lasagne, and he interacts with guest stars like Smokey the Bear.

My renewed fascination with Heathcliff came from stumbling onto Brian Sweeney's observations at the Literate Ape.

Among the cartoons Sweeney points to, I find this one the most compelling:

Sweeney points to two oddities here: That Santa and Heathcliff have some kind of long-standing beef, and Santa is (for some reason) working in the Complaints department in a store. Frankly, the fact that Santa is working in the Complaints department is way funnier than the caption provided. Is it off-season Santa? And has anyone ever actually seen a "complaints" department in a store? How bad is that store, that it needs a full-time employee just to handle complaints? Is any store that bad?(Actually, I know the answer to that: the KMart on 9 Mile in St. Clair Shores, Michigan; The Dollar Store on Franklin Ave. in Waco; and the Macy's in Chicago).  

Also, what is Heathcliff the Cat's complaint? Did he buy something? And if so, how did he carry it home?

There is so much more to explore.

In 1984, briefly, Heathcliff had a TV show that also featured some of his friends. Is it just me, or did this show profoundly affect the costume design for the movie version of "Cats?"  Judge for yourself:

Monday, December 30, 2019


Leftover haiku...

Hey! I liked this batch of haiku.

Like this from the Medievalist:

Pickled herring is
A righteous post season snack,
Especially now.

And Christine:

There is standing rib
medium rare, perfect pink,
smear of horseradish.

And TRW Joe:

In the fridge, right there.
It depends on what you find.
Yum! Or....no thank you.

Sunday, December 29, 2019


Sunday Reflection: The Quiet Week

Unless you are involved with something like bowl games or debutante balls, this is a quiet week. The roads are less full, and many people sleep in.

But not everyone.  When I was a prosecutor, I often worked on the week between Christmas and New Years. It was such sad duty, too- handling cases where people were picked up on a warrant when they visited their parents, or violated probation while celebrating the holiday. It was with a heavy heart that I drove to work down a deserted Jefferson Avenue in the morning.

I don’t have to do that anymore, but many people do. There can be good quiet and bad quiet, I guess.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


Because, Star Wars

Friday, December 27, 2019


Haiku Friday: Leftovers

It's leftover season!

I had a big bowl of leftover corn chowder (my traditional Christmas Eve meal, which I make for the family every year) yesterday for lunch, along with a ham sandwich. Yum!

Let's haiku about those delectable hangers-on, the treats worth waiting for. Here, I will go first:

Pizza for breakfast,
Ham reappears as sandwich;
What's old is new 'gain!

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula, and have some fun!

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Christmas Mayhem Thursday!

Christmas isn't over! We get 12 days-- until January 5!

I'm actually giving a sermon on January 5 (at 1st Covenant/Minneapolis), which is the feast of the epiphany. I'm looking forward to it in a way I always do. Writing a sermon, having it develop, is kind of like watching a kid grow up: it often turns out in surprising ways that you didn't see coming. I love having that bookend to to the holiday.

Enjoy this time!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


On Christmas

Merry Christmas!

I am blessed by the people around me. I do nothing by myself, and too rarely give credit to those who pull me along behind them. My collaborators have been incredible. The newest person to work with and teach mine is Leslie Redmond, pictured above. We wrote a piece together for Christmas, titled Justice for Christmas. You can read it here. We also did a radio interview yesterday, and it was wonderful to share the time with her and the people listening. There is nothing more important to talk about right now. Leslie wrote the very heart of it: "If Jesus walked the earth today, he would be flipping tables."

I also had a piece in the Waco Trib yesterday that is, in a way related. You can read that here.  

This day does mean something...

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


The familiar

I am back in the house I grew up in, halfway up Colonial Rd. Almost everything is familiar here: the smell of the kitchen, the placement of the tree, the characters in the old plaster creche.  

Almost everything. There is always a little something new, too. A piece of art on the wall, something my dad did last month, that is slightly different than what he has done before. A new neighbor. Changes, small and large, in the familiar people at the table. 

And all of it is good. Advent ends, Christmas comes, and there is a gentleness to it all.

Monday, December 23, 2019


Non-T.S. Eliot Cat Poems

Well, nothing like a bad movie to bring good poets out of the woodwork. On the topic of the new "Cats" movie, we had this from Christine:

One time cat sitter
I recall you had a cat
Was its name Fluffy?

[our family cat was named "Chuck"]

And Jill Scoggins weighed in:

My cats are feral.
Tough. Loyal. No collared clothes.
My wild scrappy babes.

As did the Medievalist:

Cats are assassins,
Furry hit-men killing things,
No to the movie.

And, fortunately, IPLawGuy:

Detroit Denizen
and Wacoan Ted Nugent
wrote "Cat Scratch Fever"

Sunday, December 22, 2019


Sunday Reflection: The travelers

Yesterday was spent on interstates.

I was driving back towards Detroit, West to East and North to South. Lots of other people were on the road, too. Some were hurrying to finish work as truckers, others were making a trek like mine, to a house full of people they love. I didn't go near an airport and I was glad for that; it is probably mayhem.

On these few days before Christmas, Joseph and Mary were traveling, too. Caesar Augustus had ordered a census, so everyone had to return to the home of their ancestors. Joseph was descended from David, who came from Bethlehem, so they had to return their. It seems that they no longer had family there; after all, they had no place to stay. 

I'm going to the place of my ancestors, I suppose, though some of them are alive and I certainly have a place to stay (though it may be on an air mattress on the floor-- it is going to be pretty crowded in there!). 

Going somewhere else has been a part of this for a very long time.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


More Cats....

Because I just can't help myself!

Friday, December 20, 2019


Haiku Friday: "Cats," the movie!

I had no intention of seeing the new movie adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical "Cats" until the reviews came out-- the fascinating, awful, terrifying reviews. One said that "Cats" is like "stumbling upon an unholy and heretofore unknown genre of porn." Another, by Alisdair Duncan at the Pedestrian website, is worthy of a full quote:

Some of the cats in this film walk around fully nude and unashamed, shaking their fuzzy human-shaped boobs and flaunting their smooth crotches. A few of them get to wear shoes for some reason, and Mr. Mistoffelees spends most of the film Donald Duck-ing it in a jacket and no pants.

Judi Dench‘s character Old Deuteronomy wears an elaborate fur coat, but this raises even more questions, like where the %$@& does fur even come from in the Cats cinematic universe? Did she kill and skin another cat and then wear it as a display of dominance? That’s a film I’d like to watch.

In one particularly upsetting scene, Rebel Wilson‘s Jennyanydots unzips her skin and tosses it aside to reveal a jazzy purple outfit underneath. Are her clothes somehow fused with her body? Does she wear them all the time? Wouldn’t that start to chafe after a while? Can other cats shed their skin, too?

Sorry, but I have even more questions. Is there some kind of hierarchy or caste system that determines which cat gets to wear what? Are the collared cats participating in some kind of weird S&M game with the fully clothed ones? All this is making my head hurt, so I’m just not going to think about it anymore.

Anyways, let's haiku about this whole mess! Are you going to see "Cats?" If so, why? And what is it that is so creepy about this whole thing?

Here, I will go first:

I must be honest:
Cats are creepy anyways
But this is scary!

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, December 19, 2019


Political Mayhem Thursday: Waiting for the person who will surprise us

Every once in a while, someone will come to me wondering why no one in the press will pay attention to their story. I hear them out, and often the problem is the same: Their story is exactly what anyone would expect. They are, for example, a crime victim who is still mad at the perpetrator. That's understandable, but not very interesting. No one writes a story about "Crime Victim Still Mad 20 Years Later." But if the crime victim is forgiving? Then it is interesting; they have surprised us through exercising a principle.

I'll admit to using this to my advantage at times. People don't expect my viewpoint from a former federal prosecutor, so I make sure that an interviewer knows that about my background. It's not irrelevant, after all: My time as a prosecutor absolutely informs how I view criminal justice.  And the disjuncture from the expected party line makes it interesting.

Watching the impeachment hearings yesterday (when I could stand it, which wasn't very long), I couldn't help but think it was boring. The Republicans were outraged by the impeachment itself, while Democrats were outraged by President Trump's conduct. There were no surprises, no unexpected bursts of moral purpose.

Famously, it was a break from the expected that brought down Richard Nixon in 1974. Republican party stalwart Barry Goldwater and his fellow Arizona Republican, Minority Leader Rep. John Rhodes, joined by Republican Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, met with Richard Nixon and told him it was time to step down.

We live in different times, I suppose. But I am willing to be surprised.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


YLS Class of '90: Ted Wang

On Wednesdays, I am profiling my classmates from the Yale Law School class of 1990. What a fascinating group they are!

Ted Wang came to the US from Taiwan, and then to Yale Law School from Reed College in Oregon (which is perhaps the smallest school in the US with its own nuclear reactor, though I don't think Ted had anything to do with that).

After graduation, Ted got right after what it is he wanted to do (and still does):  Push for social change and inclusion. Starting in 1990, he began working for non-profits in the Bay Area, litigating discrimination and voting rights cases and drafting laws that promote immigrant rights and racial justice.

Many of my heroes are community organizers like Ted; often I operate in their wake, appreciating the waves they made. His work has been recognized with a bevy of awards, but I suspect that the real satisfaction comes in knowing the unseen changes he has created.

Since 2004, Ted has been working as the US Program Director at Unbound Philanthropy, a non-profit which focuses on projects involving migrants and refugees-- critical work right now! In 2018, they made over $5,000,000 in grants in the US alone (they made additional grants in the UK).

As I get the chance to write about people like Ted, I am really taken by the wholeness of their vocation. He clearly entered law to do something for others, and is doing it at the front lines of one of the most important and contentious realms in our society. Others have gone on to have power, but it is the influence of those like Ted that I most admire.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


Best county names in Minnesota

I come from Michigan, which goes for pretty standard county names, with a dash of native and French names thrown in. I'm from "Wayne" County, which isn't very exotic sounding.

In Minnesota, though, we really have some great county names. Here are my ten favorites, in alphabetical order:

Big Stone County
Blue Earth County
Crow Wing County
Kandiyohi County
Koochiching County
Lac qui Parle County
Mower County
Otter Tail County
Rock County
Yellow Medicine County

Monday, December 16, 2019


Winter Sports!

Hey, good job haiku friends! Winter sports as a topic can go a lot of ways, and you took it there. Like this from the Medievalist (who grew up in MN and knows a thing or two):

Ice fishing is fun,
If you do it right you might
Even catch some ice.

And Christine:

Nothing is better
than a lunch tray and a hill
Don't hit the mailbox.

And Jill Scoggins, who is more of an indoor kind of person:

Winter sports to me?
Basketball. Best sound ever?
WHOOSH! Nuthin’ but net.

And Gavin, who has a Dakota take:

Twilight at the rink.
Cold air bites, blades cut fresh ice
Left, right, left, right, gliiiiiiiide

Saturday, December 14, 2019


Hermey the Bad Elf

Of all the Christmas characters, sacred and profane, the very worst is Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist. Seriously, he has haunted my dreams since childhood.

Friday, December 13, 2019


Haiku Friday: Winter Sports

It's pretty stupid to live in Minnesota if you don't love winter sports-- and luckily for me, I do! There are days that I can literally put on cross-country skis and head out the front door, and if I want (fairly mild) downhill skiing, there is a little area about ten minutes from my house. There is a beautiful rink with a warming hut in a park two blocks from my house, as well. Life is good! And that's not even including my annual and wacky ski trip with IPLawGuy... 

Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:

The quietest sport
Just your breath and the long skis
Through a silent wood.

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, December 12, 2019


Advent Mayhem Thursday

I just can't bring myself to plunge into politics during Advent. It's supposed to be a time of quiet anticipation, and it just doesn't fit. Yes, I understand that there are important things going on right now-- beyond the usual mayhem, even. But for me, I need to be a little more contemplative.

One thing I love about this time of year is the music. There are certain hymns of advent--"O Come Emmanuel" is one-- that basically make me bust out in tears. Happy ones, drawn from a deep well of meaning.

Then there is the song above, which is vapid, stupid, and rooted in a bizarrely materialistic sense of Christmas where people tool around in Jaguars (to get the full effect, check out this video). But... there is something that hooks me every time in the version of the song featured above. At about 41 seconds in, the second voice, a woman, enters and starts singing in German. There is something so wonderfully jarring about that language shift mid-song that I go back and listen to the transition over and over.

Why does that get to me?

It might be because speaking a foreign language feels like some kind of magic trick, something unattainable and fascinating. Or it might be the exoticness of it, the switching from one language to another on the fly-- can you imagine? 

But, Advent always has its mysteries.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


YLS '90: Lucia Silecchia

I've devoted Wednesdays on the blog to profiling my classmates in the Yale Law class of '90. It's been a great adventure tracking them down and finding out the fascinating paths they have followed!

One thing I learned pretty quickly at Yale Law was that the loudest people were not always (or even often) the smartest.  Once you got to know them, the quieter people sometimes had the insights that would really change your mind about something. Lucia Silecchia was one of those people.

She came to Yale law from Queens College, which is part of the City College of New York. (Queens was also the alma mater of my legal writing instructor TA at Yale, Raymond Paretzky, who was also a Rhodes Scholar).  Lucia was someone who had a connection to me; we both saw a deep link between law and faith. In fact, we still travel in the same circles and see each other every few years at conferences.

Just a year after our graduation, in 1991, Lucia began teaching at Catholic University's law school. She is still there-- a professional stability that is unique amongst our class!  One of her specialties is Catholic social thought and the law, and her writing in the area is fascinating. Recently, she has started a bi-weekly column in Catholic newspapers titled "In Ordinary Times." You can see the most recent column here, and previous columns are available here. I love the way that she writes, using simple lines that cut deeply into complicated issues. Because I work at a Catholic school, too, many of my colleagues follow her work with a certain understandable reverence.

There were a few of us in the class (including Rich Sullivan and Cornell William Brooks) who were conscious of our own faith as we navigated law school. Lucia, though, has had a through-line in her life and career that stands out like a beam of light. People like her offer moral guideposts to the rest of us, rooted in a thoughtful tradition that is two millennia old.

Maybe it shouldn't be surprising that she did not end up wandering around as much as the rest of us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


My dad and motivation

I was just thinking about the way that extrinsic motivation-- especially trying to live up to the expectations of others-- can steer us in the wrong direction. In law schools, there is often the expectation that the best students will go to big firms, but those can be terrible places to work-- for one example of this, read Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming." Many of my best students would be much better off working in a smaller setting, or as a defense attorney or prosecutor. 

Here is part of what my dad had to say about this:

Psychologists often distinguish between intrinsic motivation (wanting to do something for its own sake) and extrinsic motivation (for example, doing something in order to snag a goody). The first is the best predictor of high-quality achievement, and it can actually be undermined by the second. Moreover, when you promise people a reward, they often perform more poorly as a result.
Scores of studies and personal case histories point to the benefits of an attitude of extreme giving at work. The greatest source of motivation is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves. 

Monday, December 09, 2019


Advent haiku

Susan Stabile, of all the people I know, has the best heart for Advent. And she haikued about it last week!:

Short Advent this year
('cause Thanksgiving came so late),
so less time to wait.

Sunday, December 08, 2019


Sunday Reflection: The Sermon

I realize that I never posted my sermon from November 5! Here it is. The topic is the Sabbath.

Saturday, December 07, 2019


Follow me on Twitter!

Twitter is an odd thing.  Its defining characteristic is a limitation: that you can only use 240 characters in a tweet (and until recently it was just 120!). It is so simple than even angry men who don’t know how to use a computer can spend all morning on Twitter.

I do use Twitter, often to link to this blog- my ID is @oslerguy. Please follow me! I do find it a good way to get a message out... and I am usually not angry!

Friday, December 06, 2019


Haiku Friday: Advent Stuff

It’s Advent- my second-favorite liturgical season! Let’s blog about this wonderful pet-Christmas season this week. Here, I will go first:

Advent Calendars?
The best one of them all
Is full of Legos!

Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable formula and have some fun!

Thursday, December 05, 2019


Pork Chop Mayhem Thursday

Here is a great pork chop recipe I swiped from Delish (please look up the whole thing here).

Pork chops can be a great winter meal, and they are pretty affordable. They cook up really well in a cast iron skillet-- just be sure to preheat it before you toss those bad boys in there.

Here is what you will need:

-- 4 pork loin chops
-- some butter
-- pepper
-- rosemary
-- 2 cloves of garlic
-- the original "Captain Underpants" by Dav Pilkey
-- 1 stick of butter
-- 1 tbsp of olive oil

Then do this:

  1. reheat oven to 375°. Season pork chops generously with salt and pepper. 
  2. In a small bowl mix together butter, rosemary, and garlic. Set aside. 
  3. In an oven safe skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil then add pork chops. Sear until golden, 4 minutes, flip and cook 4 minutes more. Brush pork chops generously with garlic butter. 
  4. Take a break! Read the Dav Pilkey book for a few minutes, just to get centered on what is really important.
  5. Place skillet in oven and cook until cooked through (145° for medium), 10-12 minutes. Serve with more garlic butter. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2019


YLS '90: Geoffrey Klineberg

I have been devoting Wednesdays to profiling my classmates in the Yale Law class of 1990-- a remarkably accomplished group, as it turns out!

Like last week's classmate, Michelle Browdy, Geoffrey Klineberg came to Yale Law from Princeton, with a stop at Oxford where he picked up a Masters in Philosophy (are you all starting to understand how it was a little intimidating for this process server from Detroit to step into this group?).

When I met him in our first year, he struck me as not only brilliant, but one of the nicest people in the class. I remember him describing the architecture in his hometown of Houston-- it made me want to go there (and when I did, it turned out he was right). There were a lot of people in our class who had brilliance but not a lot of real "people skills," a smaller number who had the social side down but struggled to keep up intellectually, and a few who had both. He was one of those few, and I'm sure that has been a key to his success.

After law school, he pretty much did every interesting thing you could do. He clerked for DC Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Wald, and then for Justice Harry Blackmun of the Supreme Court. He served as a Special Assistant to the Deputy Attorney General, Jamie Gorelick. He co-authored an article with Janet Reno(!).

In 1995, he went into private practice at a firm-- and unlike a lot of us, it stuck. He made partner in just three years at Kellogg Hanson Todd Figel & Frederick in DC and remains there today. Like a strangely large group of classmates he works in communications law, along with a variety of administrative and appellate challenges.

Two of his areas of focus have been legal ethics and pro bono work, and he has brought that focus to work with the DC Bar Association. Most recently, he was elected as the President of the DC Bar-- a remarkable accomplishment in the city that is the epicenter of American law. Here he is talking about his priorities:

It's hard to argue with those priorities-- and they come from a good heart in a place of power.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Remnants of the Holiday

Yesterday at school, people were moving slowly. Maybe it was the big meals, or the difficulty in returning after five days off, or tiredness from shoveling snow all weekend-- we have been deluged, to the delight of skiers (which is about 97% of Minnesotans, including me).  

One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is that each of the days seems to have a significance; it is really a five-day holiday, with a different inflection to each of those days.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving should be called Arrival Day. When I was away at college or law school, that was the day I came back home (or met my family at my Grandmother's house), and it was such warm relief. So many others were doing the same that it was kind of a travel party. I remember taking the train from Williamsburg up to Connecticut on that day in 1982. Amtrak had lopped on every bit of rolling stock they had-- and back then, they still had old Pullman cars-- and people piled in as we rolled north. It was magical. 

Then we have the holiday on Thursday, with rest and eating and whatever else we make of it. It is a holiday with a lot of ways to show love. What's better than that?

Friday is Black Friday, of course. Folks either choose to shop or not, and are usually adamant about their choice. I'm a little in between: I am tempted to watch the crazy people shop. I actually went to a mall on Friday afternoon not to shop, but to gawk at the crowds. It was kind of fun, actually. People were happy. I was, too.

Saturday of Thanksgiving week is the best college football Saturday of the season. Michigan vs. Ohio State! The Iron Bowl! Minnesota vs. Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan's Axe! What's not to love? Plus... leftovers. Yum.

And Sunday is Departure Day, when the travelers leave for their own homes. There is a sudden quiet, bittersweet. Death is a part of life; Departure Day is a part of the best holiday of all.

Monday, December 02, 2019


Mass Haiku

Yesterday, I took communion the way I always do in an Episcopal Church: I take the bread in my hand first, looking into the eyes of the person passing it to me. I feel the bread: the weight of it, the texture, the way (in a very real sense) that it is product of life and biology. Then, I turn and eat the bread, all of it. Then I turn and take the cup to my lips and drink. I'm not an intinction guy-- I want to feel all of it in the earthiest, most human way that I can. I want to feel the cold silver against my lip, the always-surprising arrival of the wine on my tongue.

Haiku Friday is always a good one when Megan Willome visits. And she did last week, with this:

for Thanksgiving Mass
I bring wine, forget bread, miss
the needed blessing.

Sunday, December 01, 2019


Sunday Reflection: Religion and Politics

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I do know that at times, Thanksgivings are riven with political or religious divisions within families, and it's likely that there was more of that this year than usual.

Sure, the division was probably more over politics than religion this year, but both have the ability to create division. And then there is the cleavage that cuts between both-- that is, the difference between people who think religion should inform our ideas about politics and those who do not.

Count me on the side of those who think that our faith should inform our political choices. If faith really is the source of our deepest beliefs and motivations, how could it not? Why would we slice away this one important part of society? 

Importantly, I'm not arguing for a theocracy; I don't think that a state religion or a favored religion should direct policy. But I do think that individual citizens should (and do) act from their faith in choosing which party, politician, or policy to support or oppose.

For example, my faith compels me to care about the fate of the poor, and do all that I can to feed the hungry and aid those in need. One way to do that is to favor politicians who want government to do exactly that. How could it not be so?

Sure, some people assert that because Jesus said that the coin with Caesar's head on it should be paid for taxes means (somehow) that our imperative to help the poor does not extend to considering how the government can help. That's pretty twisted. I creates a strange exemption to the role of God, a "two sphere" approach that is unsustainable to anyone seeking integrity within their faith. It reflects an oddly stunted and unambitious God. That's not the one I sense in the world around me.

So, yes, my faith guides what I want from government, and what I seek from that government. That's why I work to expand clemency: it is the government living out a faith imperative, of mercy. It helps, of course, that that imperative is in the Constitution as well...

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